Summary: A study on intimacy in marriage
Foundation Eight: Intimacy in Marriage
How should couples develop intimacy in marriage?
Marriage should be the most intimate relationship anybody experiences in life. It should be more intimate than a friendship, a mother-daughter relationship, a father-son relationship, a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, etc. But sadly, many couples often feel distant and alone in marriage.
Because man is body, soul, and spirit (cf. 1 Thess 5:23, Heb 4:12), married couples must cultivate each aspect of their being in order to develop intimacy. They must cultivate their friendship (soul), their sexuality (body), and their spirituality (spirit) in marriage. If one aspect of this tri-unity is missing, couples will lack the intimacy God desires. Therefore, all three must be continually cultivated.
How should married couples develop these three aspects of intimacy?
Intimacy in Friendship
As we consider developing intimacy in friendship, we must consider Christ and his friendship with the church. Jesus said this in John 15:15:
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
What makes the difference between being Christ’s servant and his friend? It was the fact that Christ shared everything with his friends. As the church, we are both Christ’s bride (cf. Eph 5:23-27) and his friend. He has taught us his secrets, things that the world will not and cannot understand (1 Cor 2:14). Through his Word and the Holy Spirit, he has taught us truths about salvation, mankind, creation, angels and demons, and the future. As the church, we are Christ’s friends, and every day we have the privilege to grow in intimacy with him through studying his Word and speaking with him in prayer.
Similarly, this practice of communing through sharing one’s life, thoughts, fears, and concerns will cultivate a married couple’s friendship and therefore intimacy. Certainly, there is a need for discipline in this area. As life gets busy with work, managing the household, raising children, church, hobbies, etc., there will be many things (some good things) that can distract from cultivating the friendship.
Likewise, this often happens in our relationship with God. Remember the story of Mary and Martha? Martha was busy serving, while Mary quietly sat at Jesus’ feet. In the same way, we often get busy with good things, which can cause us to neglect our relationship with God. This can also happen with our spouse, causing not only a lack of intimacy but discord in marriage.
What disciplines can couples practice to cultivate their friendship?
1. Couples should practice setting aside a period of time every day for sharing and listening to cultivate their friendship.
Activities are good, but intimate sharing should be maximized when couples are together. For most, evenings will be the best time for this, after work and other endeavors are completed.
Personally, my wife and I always try to leave the last hour or more of the evening for sharing and prayer. We may have family time before that where we eat dinner, talk, watch a TV show together with our daughter, etc., but with the last part of the evening, we want to focus on one another.
As a couple has more children, it becomes even harder to allot time for intimate sharing, but it is still just as important. I heard one pastor’s wife, who had five children, share that in their home, the children had to be in their rooms by eight pm. She would commonly tell their kids after eight pm, “I am no longer Mom but my husband’s wife.” That’s how they managed a busy home and yet kept intimacy. It also demonstrated to the kids the priority of the marriage relationship.
2. Couples should be careful of intimacy killers to focus on cultivating their friendship.
In considering the importance of time alone, one should be aware of intimacy killers. Though I mentioned watching TV with my wife, I am aware that this does not create genuine intimacy, but commonly distracts from it. Often watching TV, being on the Internet, playing video games, being on the phone, etc., can be ways of distracting from or avoiding intimacy.
One marital counseling book my wife and I read early on in marriage encouraged couples to not turn on the TV for the first year of marriage. The first year of marriage is foundational for the rest of marriage. In the Old Testament, a soldier was not allowed to go to war during the first year of marriage. He was to stay home and bring his wife happiness (Deut 24:5). It is within the first year of marriage that patterns are established, both healthy and unhealthy ones. If a couple establishes early patterns of primarily watching and doing instead of being and sharing, it may reap hazardous dividends later in marriage. It is not uncommon for couples to say after years of marriage, “We realized that we really didn’t know one another.” It is very possible these couples established unhealthy patterns early in marriage of being distracted by intimacy killers, which kept them from ever truly knowing one another.